diamond geezer

 Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Yesterday TfL announced that through-running on Crossrail will begin on Sunday 6th November.

This is excellent news (insomuch as something scheduled for May 2019 happening in November 2022 is excellent) and will transform east/west travel across London.

And it's only the first of of four excellent pieces of news trumpeted in bulletpoints at the start of yesterday's upbeat press release.
New direct links through Berkshire and Essex through central London
Increased operating hours and Sunday services will see the Elizabeth line run seven days a week
More frequent train services between Whitechapel and Paddington
Bond Street station to open ahead of next phase in November
You'll be able to get a through train without having to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street, hurrah! Services will start earlier (5.30am) and finish later (11pm) as soon as Monday 5th September, hurrah! Trains will finally run on Sundays, hurrah! Passengers in central London will be getting more frequent trains, hurrah! And Bond Street will be opening before November, so just five months after the rest of the railway, hurrah!

But it's also instructive to dig out what TfL aren't telling us, indeed a nugget of information that's very deliberately not been included amongst 1500 words of text.

Because although half of the central section is about to get a more frequent service, the other half is about to see longer gaps between trains. Bad luck everyone southeast of Whitechapel.

Since May trains have been running between Paddington and Abbey Wood every 5 minutes. It's a simple consistent timetable which delivers 12 trains an hour in each direction.

From November the off-peak frequency in the central core will increase to 16 trains per hour, as advertised, which'll be a train every 4 minutes, hurrah.
"The frequency of services in the central section between Paddington and Whitechapel will increase from 12 trains per hour to up to 22 trains per hour in peak times and 16 trains per hour during off-peak."
But those 16 off-peak trains have to serve both the Shenfield and the Abbey Wood branches, whereas currently it's only the latter, which means Abbey Wood is going to be sent fewer trains.

Just how that split'll be managed has not been officially announced, indeed it's information that deliberately can't be deduced from the press release. You'd think it'd be 8 trains an hour each, and this is indeed almost certainly the case, which'd be a train only every 7½ minutes. Bankers, Royal Dockers, Woolwichers and Abbey Wooders can expect to wait 50% longer.

 Canary Wharf platform B
 1 Paddington due 
 2 Paddington 5 mins 
 3 Paddington 10 mins 
 4 Paddington 15 mins 
 May - November 2022
 Canary Wharf platform B
 1 Paddington due 
 2 Heathrow T4 7 mins 
 3 Paddington 15 mins 
 4 Reading 22 mins 
 Nov 2022 - May 2023

The best evidence for an 8/8 split comes from the existing Shenfield timetable. At present eight purple trains an hour depart Shenfield for Liverpool Street. Send all of these into the tunnels beyond Stratford and that's half of the 16 trains heading through the central core... leaving only 8 slots for trains from Abbey Wood.

n.b. They can't change the Shenfield timetable in November because National Rail timetables only change in May and December.
n.b. Officially "A small number of services will not run directly through into the Elizabeth line tunnels and some customers may need to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street mainline stations.", so yes, some Shenfield trains will still be terminating at Liverpool Street above ground, but that's not going to be an off-peak thing.

Passengers west of Paddington and east of Stratford won't initially see any uplift in the frequency of trains, they'll just get the fabulous convenience of those trains continuing into central London. Passengers between Paddington and Whitechapel will see an uplift to a train every 4 minutes rather than every 5, but they'll also have to start paying a lot more attention to where that train is going which could make their waiting time longer. It's only passengers between Whitechapel and Abbey Wood that lose out, frequency-wise, indeed it'll never be as good off-peak as it is now.

Let's summarise what's going on with some schematics.

These are the numbers of off-peak trains per hour until November 2022.

      Pa  LS8Sh
Re2 12       
   4 6←12       
   He      AW  

These are off-peak trains per hour in November 2022 when the tunnels link up.

      Pa  LS    
   4 8←16   8   
   He     AW  

And these are off-peak trains per hour in May 2023 when the project is complete.

      Pa  LS    
Re4  10Sh
   6 10←20   10   
   He     AW  

I won't muddy the waters further by looking at peak services because they're a lot more complicated, save to say that Canary Wharf will be getting its "every 5 minutes" service back at peak times next May. Indeed it's worth remembering that next May is the really big bang when the ultimate service kicks in, and everything up to that point is only a step on the journey. But Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood will never again get a service more frequent than they have now, and off-peak, sorry, it only gets worse.

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